With a recent series of major funding sources aligning in support of Next Act’s effort to renovate the interior of the historic Astra Theatre, a full and complete renovation—inclusive of the interior renovation—appears to be on the horizon.
In August of 2016, Next Act received a historic preservation grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) to complete rehabilitation of the building’s exterior as well as major infrastructure replacement. That construction, an approximate $500,000 project, is currently underway.
The group had been lobbying and working hard to close an additional $500,000 financial gap that would allow contractors to stay onsite and seamlessly transition from the work supported by the OCRA grant dollars to the next phase of interior renovations.
“Our goal has always been two-fold: finishing the Astra, of course, but then also figuring out a way to do it all at once so as not to disturb our neighbors downtown more than one time for major renovations,” said Leslie Hamby Next Act’s chairperson.
A string of recent gifts, donations, and charitable acts appear to have aligned to close that gap and bring a fully-renovated Astra by spring of 2018, once a pipe dream, closer to reality.
It began with a favorable bid by Seufert Construction for the OCRA historic preservation work that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will enable Next Act to redirect dollars that were originally projected to cover out-of-pocket expenses related to the historic preservation project.
Next, the Dubois County Community Foundation, a crucial partner of Next Act from the organization’s earliest days (October 2014), committed a $50,000 grant towards the interior renovations, and coordinated gifts from multiple donors totaling an additional $50,000.
“We feel the Astra Theatre renovation has and will continue to enhance our community and remain committed to the Next Act as they carry this project to completion,” said Clayton Boyles, executive director of the Community Foundation. “Our role in this project exemplifies how we best serve our community, through endowment building, grantmaking, and community convening. We’re grateful to our donors who choose to partner with the community foundation to facilitate their philanthropy,” Boyles said.
The Jasper LEADs (Library, Enrichment, Arts, Downtown) organization fits into the funding puzzle as the final piece. LEADs has been diligently working to meet and then exceed the recent challenge grant requirements that were included by Jasper residents and community arts advocates Jim and Pat Thyen. Jasper LEADs recently committed $200,000 to the Astra’s interior renovation project. The $200,000 commitment is inclusive of the recent $70,000 Give Where You Live! day’s effort.
Jasper LEADs also committed, if necessary, an additional $100,000 in the event of unforeseen circumstances or if additional funding needs become necessary.
“The Astra project has always been on the radar of Jasper LEADs because it is the jewel in the crown of downtown Jasper. Its completion will mean much more activity on the square just as there was years ago,” said Mike Jones, president of the Jasper Community Arts Commission, as well as a member of Jasper LEADs. “We are excited about the total and complete Astra renovation and Next Act’s willingness to use the finished facility for a multitude of arts events—JCAC, Actors Community Theatre, the library, their own events, public speakers, and more.”
“We couldn’t be more appreciative of the way the community as a whole has rallied around us, not only now, but since our formation in October of 2014,” said Marc Steczyk, Next Act’s president. “I think it speaks volumes as to what the Astra means to this community to have had the support and generosity that we’ve had—particularly, as we have entered this last phase of fundraising for the interior renovations.”
At this time, it is the hope, intent, and goal of Next Act’s board of directors to work collaboratively with Seufert Construction to aim for a grand re-opening of the historic theater in April 2018, coinciding with the 82nd anniversary of the venue’s original grand opening date, April 17, 1936.
Next Act’s public membership campaign is still underway and all funds raised will be used for additional design and decor enhancements to the interior renovation and maintenance of the facility. Incentive levels begin at $50 and include t-shirts, Libby’s ice cream (monthly), Brew’s coffee (weekly), growlers and refills from Schnitz Brewery & Pub as well as St. Benedict’s Brew Works (monthly), and seat naming opportunities (very limited amount left). For additional information about the Next Act, the historic Astra Theatre, or how to donate, visit www.TheNextAct.org.